I was not a Comics reader growing up. My love of superheroes came from Superfriends and Spider-man and His Amazing Friends. It wasn’t until I got to college that I was handed Watchmen and Batman Year One and the Dark Knight Returns. So I learned from the beginning of my comics reading some of the wonderful things the medium could do, even though I don’t hav an instinctual sense of of how to read a page developed from childhood. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m supposed to go right or go down a page. I am not a very visual person - I will often go through a comic focusing solely on the speech bubbles and almost ignoring the art, which means that I can miss things and have to go back. I usually notice the art if it is bad, or confusing, or hilarious, but that’s about it.
I first remember encountering James Tynion IV in the backup stories he did in Batman in the new 52 era. I enjoyed what he did, and then I got the joy of listening to him on panels at New York Comic Con and on a Flame Con soda special episode of Jay and Miles Xplain the X-men. I quickly realized that this was a writer I wanted to seek out and read more of. I really enjoyed his time on Detective Comics - I loved that he used the opportunity to turn it into a real team book for members of the Bat family that don't always get the spotlight, especially Spoiler, who is a personal favorite of mine. His character development of Clayface was also excellent.
Thanks to my local library system, I dived into his creator owned work. I adore Backstagers - it has the right amount of whimsy in its depiction of horror, and the characters are so lovingly crafted that they almost step off the page. I enjoyed his The Woods far more than I would’ve imagined - I am not usually a horror comic type of person, but the interpersonal drama kept me coming back even when the monstrous situations terrified me.
Something is Killing the Children has that same feel as The Woods. The simple plot summary I could give does it a disservice. “Children are going missing and turning up dead, and mysterious girl shows up in town to fight the monster” sounds like it could be cookie cutter or paint by numbers, but it feels like so much more than that.In a few strokes, Tynion creates characters who feel alive and real and plunks them down in a horrible situation.
The story feels to me in the same family as a merging of some of the best elements of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Stranger Things - not to say that it feels derivative, but just that my personal frame of reference for comparison is probably rather limited. The monster is appropriately terrifying and the overarching mysteries are set up well. It reminds me a lot also of Clean Room by Gail Simone, another comic I had to read with the lights on.
I know from reading all of the Woods that Tynion knows how to plan for the long game. This volume contains issues 1-5, which is enough to set up a much larger world than the small town with missing kids that it starts out as. I look forward to learning more of the creepy telepathic stuffed animal monster hunting organization. Can’t wait for volume 2! Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC!